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Is This Bristol’s Best Gin Bar?

psychopomp

Inside Psychopomp, a Bristol gin bar

To the left of a hidden bar inside The Old Bookshop, there’s a wall covered in handwriting. Emilio Di Salvo, bartender at Psychopomp Gin Distillery’s new cocktail bar gives his patrons pens to decorate the tiles as they wish.

We ask him the story behind “In Bed With The Queen!”- one of the various intriguing phrases adorning the brickwork. The answer captures the essence of what makes this new bar so unique in Bristol’s thriving speakeasy scene. It’s the name of one of his Sunday Brunch cocktails- Emilio’s twist on a Breakfast Martini. It was constructed in tandem with the head chef, who made a special pink grapefruit marmalade just for the drink. There is a preoccupation bordering on obsession with going the extra mile, and asking for help from unusual sources, to make the drinks here stand out from the crowd.

espresso martini

You’ve worked in a number of cocktail bars both in Bristol and further afield before this- how did you end up here?

E: I started at Milky (Milk Thistle) when I was 20, then went to Red Light for 2 years, then on to The Little Red Door in Paris. The whole time in Bristol though, I knew Danny, who started Psychopomp with Liam. They rang me up and told me they liked the way I do things. They said, “we’ve got this thing we want to set up in The Old Bookshop, and the only way we’re going to do it is if you run it- otherwise we won’t do it.” I always wanted to work with Danny- he’s got a great brain for gin and making a business work, he has been running bars for years- and the other guy who makes Psychopomp is a doctor.

Like an alchemist of gin?

E: Yeah, he’s got the beard for it as well.

You created a new menu that’s started this week- what was the thinking behind it?

E: We wanted it to feel fun- I haven’t put every ingredient next to every drink- it’s more like an idea. The way it’s laid out like a dictionary is supposed to fit with the context of the building we’re in (The Old Bookshop). I wanted to do something a bit different to other cocktail joints in Bristol- I want it to feel like a neighbourhood bar. I wanted people to be able to walk into this bar and order a Ramos Gin Fizz because thats what I always wanted to do’ – if you ask a bartender for a Ramos normally his heart will sink, because traditionally you have to shake it until all the ice has dissolved. There are some incredible bars that will make it without hesitation though- Satan’s Whiskers in London is a great example.

Crafting a Ramos Gin Fizz

How long does that take?

E: About 11 minutes- I’m convinced it’s going to become the thing for a group of 20 lads to order at the bar, but we’ll see.

The finished Gin Fizz

The new Jagerbomb.

E: [Laughs] Exactly!

Is it just you who runs this? So if you’re not here… this place isn’t open?

E: Umm… no! Haha- there is one other girl, Steff, who is between here and the distillery at the moment. She used to be an actor and she wrote a play on gin, which I think is what got her the job- she loved gin so much that she’s stopped acting to come and make gin!

I worked with bartenders for 5 years but Steff is essentially an awesome lady who loves gin. She’s an incredible waitress and she’s worked in cocktail bars in London, but not really behind the bar- so she’s my link to everyone on the other side. She’s really great with people.

When we work together I’ll ask her to smell a gin, and she’s really good at placing herself into a nostalgic mood and coming up with an idea then I figure out a way to get close. So, for example we were trying to come up with a winter menu drink, and I didn’t want to make something that was really obvious with spices and things like that, so she said:

“Caramel from the inside of a boozy chocolate my nan gave me”

That gave me figs, which have a caramel flavour to them.

“Smoke from the cigars my dad has”

That led me to a smoked fig sour, and that became the Wanton Hussy that’s on the menu now. So she conceives the drink, and I put it together.

Gin & Tea
A glorious gin & tea

One of the other bodies propping up the bar is a magician who periodically unnerves nearby customers by spontaneously conjuring fireballs out of thin air. The conversation turn to a discussion of the different chemicals that can be used to produce a variety of colourful flames, and the difficulty of acquiring some of the rarer substances.

E: Well seeing as you’re already on a blacklist, can you get me any Quinine Sulphate?

After a confident declaration by the pyromancer that “It can be obtained” we ask Emilio what he’s planning on using it for.

E: I want to try and make my own tonic water- eventually I would like to not serve my Gin & Tonics like this- I would like to serve them in frozen champagne flutes, and use my own tonic, carbonate it myself- It would mean I could have control over quantities and could adapt it to the various gins I’ve got back here. I’m also looking to make some clarified lime juice which appears completely clear but still holds its taste. I’ve been reading lots of Dave Arnold (author of Liquid Intelligence) so I’m playing around with some of his techniques.

pouring a gin and tonic

What is it about making cocktails that you enjoy so much? How did you get into mixing drinks?

E: Something about building a drink and then tasting the flavours at the end, and getting it right… had a kind of pull to it? I never liked spirits when I was younger- I was the classic Bristol kid drinking cider in the park, and I don’t really know when it happened, but maybe it was when I was working at Picollino’s and I’d dart over to Harvey Nicks on my break with a cocktail book and point at something and ask them “Can you make this?” and they’d make it for me and then I’d go back to work half-cut.

It was epic though, because it was around the time that Mad Men came out- Old Fashioned’s became a known thing to the general public. I had long hair for years but shaved it off and suddenly become very… smooth- a cigarette holder just appeared in my hand and I realised Don Draper had started living in my head, or at least a nerdy english version.

What’s exciting about working here specifically?

E: I’m letting people find this place on their own- for me this is downtime- I’ve worked in other bars but because this place is a little quieter and a little smaller what I like about it is it means I can spend more time on each drink and make sure everything’s perfect.

martini pour

There’s a permanent chef here called Alex Bluett, and he’s really know his stuff, seriously come and eat his food – rather than working with bartenders I’m much more interested in working with chefs. And anyone else actually- photographers, musicians- if they build a drink with me and somehow incorporate music into the drink then we can get people looking from different angles- it makes it much more interesting.

So what do you have behind the bar right now?

E: Right now I’ve got 4 spirits- 3 of them are gin, so we’ve got one aged, one seasonal, and one classic- all Psychopomp- the whole idea is that we wanted to fund ourselves- we never wanted to order in another brand- if we can make it ourselves then we will. There’s also an aquavits we have made.

psychopomp gin

If there’s one drink you’d want to recommend to anyone thinking of coming here, what would it be?

I’ve got to say one of my favourites really… probably the Bee’s Knees. Right now I’m trying to make the best Bee’s Knees in the world. Its such a simple drink but the ingredients can vary so much. specific honey and each lemon is different. I would like to try and make a gin specifically for it. Who knows?

bee's knees gin drink
Probably the best Bee’s Knees you’ll ever try.

Psychopomp at The Old Bookshop in Bedminster is open from 6pm Wednesday to Saturday, and from 12:30 til 8pm on Sundays.

The Old Bookshop address:

65 North Street
Bristol
BS3 1ES

All photos are from the wonderful Chelsey Cliff: Check out Chelsey on Instagram  or visit her on VSCO here.

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Hip Hop & House Brunch Clubs

foozie-brunch

Foozie, creator of the popular Bingo Wings event, has launched an awesome new event series for spring and summer 2016: Brunch 808.

Brunch 808 is a series of music themed brunch parties in collaboration with Club Haus and Espensen Spirit: Hip Hop Brunch Club & Classic House Brunch Club.
Happening on alternate months, Hip Hop Brunch Club will feature the best old school hip hop from the 80’s, 90’s and noughties., while their Classic House Brunch Clubs will carry the same concept, but they’ll be spinning the ultimate and most nostalgic classic house and electronica tracks from the same eras.
Each event will start at 11.30am with a two course brunch, a cocktail on arrival and there will be themed cocktail menus to get you in the groove. Then, once you’ve eaten and the cocktails are flowing, the tables will be moved and the tunes will be cranked up for proper boogie and an epic dance-off.
Club Haus has a beautiful outdoor terrace that overlooks the river and will be perfect venue for these summer day time parties.
The first event is a Bristol Food Connections Hip Hop special on April 30th. May’s Classic House Brunch Club lands on Love Saves The Day weekend, so they’re kicking off a bit early (10am-2pm) to give you the best festival warm up EVER! And in June they’re hosting a one-off Glastonbury edition for those unable to attend the festival; with an amazing playlist of iconic Glastonbury tracks.
Tickets are £25pp + £1 bf (includes two course brunch, a cocktail and four hours of awesome day time shenanigans) http://www.foozie.co.uk/brunch-808-/
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There’s a New Gelato Place in Bristol

Swoon-Gelato

An authentic gelato place has opened in Bristol…and it’s great!

Swoon is situated right opposite the cathedral, not only does Swoon boast incredible views, but mouth-watering gelato too.

swoon gelato bristol

All the gelato is freshly made in the shop and you can even watch the chefs at work.

With flavours such as salted caramel, apple pie and pistachio, there’s certain to be something you like. They do dairy free sorbetti and gelato cake too!

sorbert at swoon gelato

With more than 120 years of gelato experience in the family, Swoon is a family run business, owned by Bruno and his sister Pat.

Bruno, along with head gelato chef Luisa, attended Carpigiani Gelato University, near Bologna in Italy. Who knew that was a thing?!

They started work on Swoon a year ago and finally opened the doors this week.

Gelato is served at a higher temperature than ice cream, meaning it’s lower fat and the ingredients are fresher – as if you needed another excuse.

gelato bristol

After opening this week you can now pop into Swoon and though it might seem mad to be tucking into ice cream in February, once you get a spoon in you’ll never look back!

Swoon Bristol address: 31A College Green, Bristol, BS1 5TB

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There’s a Cat Cafe Coming to Bristol

bristol-cat-cafe

Get ready, there will be a cat cafe in Bristol soon

Feline like a coffee? You & Meow is bringing the cat cafe craze to Bristol. Inspired by Japanese Zen Gardens, you can expect an awesome experience with cats, coffee, tea and tasty cakes.

Bristol has a cat pub which has had great success but it’s been crying out for a more casual day time cat filled place so we’re incredibly excited.

To stay up to date with their developments, check out the You & Meow website, Facebook or Twitter.

For those that have never experienced the joy of a cat cafe, have a look at the world’s most famous in Tokyo.

 

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The Ox Set to Open on Whiteladies

the-ox

The Ox Expands into Clifton

One of the best places to to eat in Bristol, the award-winning The Ox will be opening a new restaurant on Whiteladies Road. Replacing the previous Italian restaurant tenants – Zio. You can be certain to expect the same amazing steaks that you get on Corn Street.

There’s a huge brucie bonus with this branch though, The Ox Clifton will be serving up Sunday Roasts. If they’re roasts are as good as their steaks then this could be one of the best places for Sunday lunch in Bristol.

The OX Clifton will be opening on Friday the 27th of November at 96A Whiteladies Road, BS8 2QX.

 

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MEATliquor Bristol Opening

meatliquor-bristol

MEATliquor set to open in Bristol

‘Burgers and booze, shakes and shame. Come hungry leave wobbly‘ – MEATliquor London’s motto.

MEATliquor, which has restaurants across the UK in London, Leeds and Brighton is shortly set to open in Stokes Croft, replacing the old Dynamic Heating Services building.

When inside you’ll see designs from iconic Bristol artist, Inkie.

Before delving into some absolutely scrumptious full on meat and booze.

Yet a brucie bonus: to match Stokes Croft clientele this MEATliquor will also feature more vegan and vegetarian options that any other of its sites.

MEATliquor is set to open on Tuesday, November 24th.

MEATliquor Bristol address: 77-79 Stokes Croft, Bristol, BS1 3QY (opposite the Canteen).

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Aluna Cocktail Bar

aluna-cocktail-bar

Aluna is Bristol’s latest cocktail bar

Remember the Thai Edge on Broadquay? Well there’s a new place to drink with a cocktail bar that’s replaced it. Aluna uses alchemy to create cocktails that you’re unlikely to find elsewhere in Bristol. We sampled our way through 8 of their social scientist’s creations to get a taste of what Aluna has to offer.

1. Asian Infusion

aluna achemy

‘I guarantee you’ve never seen anything like this before mate’ said the incredibly Australian cocktail whizz. This gin sharer is brewed in a cauldron before exploding in a puff of smoke right on the table. If you’re at Aluna on a date then sport a knowing smirk and order this one.

2. Spiced Mai Thai

spiced mai thai

Reminiscent of sherbert with lashings of coconut. Fun for all the family…18 and above obviously.

3. Mochatini

mochatini

Will blow away the cobwebs. Rich and opulent like a good velvet jacket.

4. Bubblegumtini

bubblegumtini

Have a listen to this one as it literally spits in your ear like a llama on speed. Reminiscent of a Screwball it tastes as blue as it looks. Cocktail for the Snapchat generation.

5. Strawberry Mojito

strawberry mojito

Solid glass work on this one. Not too sweet and darn tasty. One of the most gleaming strawberries we’ve seen in Bristol. Locally sourced?

6. Old Fashioned

spiced mai thai

Never before has orange and whisky sat so comfortably together since Dale Winton and his drinking days.

7. Marshmallow Daiquiri

Marshamallow Daiquiri

Bit strange this one, it definitely divided opinions on our table. Something of an acquired taste you could say.

8. Patriot’s Potion

aluna steam

Isambard Kingdom Brunel would be proud of this steamy beast. Earl Grey and Gin fused with a dollop of smoke coming out of the top.

The Verdict

cocktails

What has this place got that Bristol needs? There’s a lot of new cocktail bars in Bristol but Aluna offers something a bit different. There’s impressive cocktail flairing (featuring fire), whilst we saw things we didn’t know could be done with drinks.

injection cocktail

For this kind of place and its location the cocktails are pretty standardly priced from £6.95 to £9.95 and the drinks were scrumptiously tasty. If you love drinking in the centre, Aluna really should be on your radar next time you’re out.

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First Look Inside the New Wardrobe Theatre

wardrobe-theatre

The Wardrobe Theatre Gets Closer to Completion

We love this place, it features on one of 10 nights out for a tenner in Bristol. The Wardrobe Theatre used to sit above The White Bear pub up on St Michael’s Hill but they’ve fundraising to move to a new space in Old Market and are committed to affordable nights out. Previously, tickets were usually no more than a fiver.

There’s now just 5 weeks until the doors open of the new Wardrobe Theatre in Old Market, Bristol and they’ve posted a little update and a sneaky look inside at the building work done so far.
Their fundraising target is £70,000 and so far have managed to raise a huge £39,560.15. This figure is enough to ensure they will definitely be opening on 1st December; however, if people are planning to donate and haven’t done so yet, now is the time to do it!

How you can donate to help The Wardrobe Theatre.

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New Escape Game Comes to Bristol

locked-in-a-room-bristol

LockedInARoom is one of Europe’s largest escape games

Have you ever been to a live escape-room? All the rage across Eastern Europe they’ve begun making their way over to Bristol over the last couple of years. LockedInARoom is the latest one and it’s one of the largest in Europe. They’re the only escape venue where a group of up to 20 players can race against each other simultaneously.

Upon entry you’re locked in a room with a series of puzzles, tests and clues that combined allow the unlocking of each room’s mystery as you attempt to escape.

For a taste of what you will end up seeing, have a butchers of LockedInARoom’s video.

To find them head over to 3 Unity Street, Arclight House, Bristol, BS1 5HH.

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Lightsaber Combat Academy in Bristol

bristol-lightsaber

So…. there is a lightsaber combat academy in Bristol

There has been an awakening in Bristol….
Eight years ago three Italian masters set up the academy of lightsaber combat. Now classes are held in Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Russia and for the last year Bristol, Cheltenham and soon Cardiff. This is a new form of competitive combat based on the seven styles of lightsaber techniques from the star wars universe.
  • Kids 8-12 are ‘apprentices’, whilst 13+ are “younglings”
  • Younglings begin with a blue lightsaber but once you’ve made stage three you become a Jedi and can choose your own lightsaber colour
  • You can choose to be a Sith or a Jedi Knight
They are always looking to include more people into this rapidly growing and unique sport. These videos show just what they do from their Italian origins to international tournaments.

They will be running a national competition in November which will showcase their athletes competing for a place in next year’s internationals in Milan.
You can find out more on their Facebook and Twitter  or england@ludosport.com.

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